EDMONTON - Daryl Katz spent more than $15,000 purchasing full-page ads in the Saturday editions of the Edmonton Sun and Edmonton Journal to apologize to the city and to Oilers fans.
For the owner of a major league professional sports franchise, that’s petty cash.
For a billionaire, it’s pocket change
But it might be the best $15,000 Katz ever spends.
When he flew to Edmonton following his charade in Seattle, I believe he suddenly came to the realization his most recent bluff had not only failed to achieve the desired effect, but had succeeded in leaving his ever-deteriorating image of being another Peter Pocklington.
In the ad, Katz didn’t specifically mention the Seattle scam on the day their city council approved a new $490 million arena, or the tour of the site with Bob Black, Patrick LaForge, Kevin Lowe, and Craig MacTavish, with Wayne Gretzky later joining them for the Seahawks-Packers NFL game.
“To the people of Edmonton, Northern Alberta and Oilers fans everywhere, I owe you an explanation,” Katz’s letter began.
“I was upset when certain confidential information was leaked and by comments that I thought were unfair and called my integrity into question. I reacted by trying to send a message to City leaders that they should not take my support for a new arena for granted.
“In doing so, I took for granted your support and your love for the Oilers.
“That was wrong, and I apologize.”
One letter isn’t going to endear himself to a city. But if it’s followed by a swift and decisive “win-win” deal he mentioned in the letter to take the arena from the already- agreed-on framework for $450 million to cover the increased costs now pegged at $475 million without further dragging the image of this town through the mud, that’ll be the second of two steps toward that end.
“In hindsight, I have underestimated the degree to which it would be up to us to make the case for public funding.
“As I think you all know by now, public communication is not my nature. Chalk that up as a personal shortcoming.”
That’s another pretty significant paragraph in the letter.
The most interesting reaction Saturday didn’t come from city council, but from the people around Katz and those who live in his world.
The quote of the day in reaction belongs to Paola Sorrell, wife of business leader Peter Sorrell, who is heavily involved in many charitable causes.
“I would hate to see this ‘visionary moment’ be squandered,” she volunteered.
“Having personally known Daryl for many years, I know him to be the first visionary we’ve seen for a long time in and from our city,” Sorrell said on record.
“Daryl has always been generous with and for our city and its institutions, notably the U of A and the Stollery.
“Personally, having worked on several ‘have not’ charities, Daryl was always the first person I could approach knowing I’d be successful in obtaining his generous support.”
There’s definitely been no appearance of Katz the philanthropist in these dealings. That visionary moment would probably seal the deal.
Bob Black, executive VP of Katz Group, believes it’s a watershed moment as well.
“I’ve known him since childhood,” said Black.
“Daryl wears his heart on his sleeve.
“He is really trying to achieve something special here and has taken lots of personal shots in the process.
“Those of us who know the real Daryl hope what he said today will resonate.”
The letter itself could go a long way to be an image- changer for the man who believes an iconic downtown arena and entertainment district will be an image-changer for the city.
“I have the sense that people are going to appreciate the letter and feel good about it,” said Oilers CEO LaForge.
“People of Northern Alberta do business face to face. Hopefully, they’ll feel more comfortable with Daryl. I think they’ll feel better about it.
“Daryl is a good guy and will do the right thing.
“I think the letter will be very good for him. I think people will appreciate him for it and applaud him for it.”
Then again, this all could be an exceptionally well done publicity stunt.
There are words.
And then there are actions.
“I have known Daryl for over 20 years, and I know he wouldn’t have said what he did in today’s ‘open letter’ if he didn’t mean it,” volunteered Ross Grieve, chairman of the board for PCL Construction.